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Android 4.1 Jelly Bean: a one-stop guide to features, release date & rollouts

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Android 4.1 Jelly Bean: a one-stop guide to features, release date & rollouts

Android Jelly Bean features

Android design banner

Jelly Bean's official title of Android 4.1 rather suggests that it's a pretty incremental platform update. But don't be fooled by Google's nomenclature. It's packed with smart new additions, the pick of which we've outlined below:

Google Now

Google Now demonstration

Voice commands are everywhere in mobile right now. And Jelly Bean is no exception.

Google Now is Android’s Siri rival. And like Apple’s so-called digital personal assistant, Google’s app allows you to conduct web searches, schedule meetings reminders and alarms and interact with your phone using only voice commands. It also offers speech to text dictation without having to be connected to 3G.

So far, so familiar? Up to a point.

Google Now also has a USP. And that’s that it combines search with your location, your calendar and a so-called ‘cards’-based system to help you and deliver more relevant results.

For the sake of example, imagine you’ve got a meeting in your calendar. Well, Google Now retains this as a card, which will serve up all kinds of useful information about different ways to get to your meeting. It also tells you how long it will take to get to your destination by different means of transport.

UI revamp

Compared to iOS and Windows Phone, Android offers loads of scope for customising phones’ layouts. But Jelly Bean goes one better than earlier iterations.

Users can now shrink widgets so they can fit more apps on a page, making it easier to have your phone, your way. And to makes things even simpler, the OS now will automatically rearrange and resize the other widgets around it so it fits in snugly.

Project Butter

As its name suggests, this refers to a series of enhancements intended to make using Android phones a lot smoother. All being well this should clamp down on the lags and hiccups that've often blighted Android phones.

Notifications

jelly bean notifications

This is another major change. The revamped notifications bar now offers live notifications. More importantly, it also allows you make calls, respond to invitations, check mails and view pictures without even leaving the pull down screen.

Text input

As well as making voice dictation easier with Google Now, Andy Rubin and co have improved the on board dictionary. They’ve also made the stock keyboard a bit cleverer, so it can remember words you favour and your typing tics.

Android Beam

Android Beam demonstration

Near Field Communication (NFC) has long been one of the tech world’s white elephant. But amid signs that it might finally be taking off for its primary purpose of enabling contactless payments, Google has added some cool features that improve its other content-sharing function.

Jelly Bean phones can now transfer photos and videos when touched together. Previously this was only for music files. And just as useful is that you’ll now be able touch your phone over an NFC-enabled speaker to pair them.

Android 4.0 Jelly Bean rollout

The first phones to get Jelly Bean will be the Google Nexus S and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, both of which are in line for an update to Android 4.0 in mid-July.

Android Jelly Bean promo handsets

Motorola’s ill-fated tablet challenger the Xoom is also set to join them, in doing so becoming the first slate to get the Jelly Bean treatment. If you don’t count the Google Nexus 7, of course.

Jelly Bean devices

Samsung Galaxy Nexus flat

The only confirmed Jelly Bean-toting gadget so far is the Google Nexus 7, which is available for pre-order now. For a full round-up of its specs, check out our news coverage.

However, as is Google's wont, we think you can expect an own-branded, Jelly Bean-powered smartphone to be along towards the end of the year to act as a standard bearer for the OS and show manufacturer partners just what kind of exalted experience it expects them to deliver with their own efforts.

If the Google Nexus, Nexus S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus is anything to go by, pencil in a Jelly Bean smartphone from the search giant for some time around November.

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